DENVER – Agape Christian Church will hold a community conversation Wednesday about healing grief following the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York that took the lives of 10 Black shoppers at a grocery store.
“The goal is to bring healing to some of the hurt and the pain that keeps on happening with situations like Buffalo, things that happened at churches, in communities, synagogues,” said Robert Woolfolk, pastor of Agape Chirstian Church.
Woolfolk said he knows a lot of his church and community members have been impacted by this latest tragedy.
“It wasn't a surprise, but it still caused me a lot of grief and sadness, anger,” said Alan Smith, peer navigator for Agape’s Community Outreach Service Center.
Since the shooting, Smith said he’s thought about how to protect his family and community members.
“I've heard people talking about gunning up, you know, getting guns,” Smith said “There was an incident that I was just made aware of with a couple of white guys coming to this church just to see it… it is an historical landmark.”
But Smith said for a moment, church members thought Agape would be the next target of a mass shooting.
“Right now, it is just something that you have to think about,” Smith said.
Dr. Apryl Alexander, associate professor of forensic psychology at the University of Denver, said the immediate and long-term impact of racist mass shootings is racial trauma.
“We need to start labeling these acts of racism as racial trauma," Alexander said. "I do a lot of trauma research, and we focus on things like physical abuse, sexual violence, but we ignore that this type of incident towards people of color is a traumatic incident. In the last 24 hours, I've heard people not wanting to go to the grocery store anymore and fear that this could happen to them next. That's a traumatic reaction."
Alexander said to begin understanding why these shootings happen, politicians need to stop tying racially motivated mass shootings to mental health issues.
“Racism is not a mental health condition. And in fact, a lot of people who do have diagnoses of mental health conditions are less likely to be violent,” Alexander said.
"My condolences to the families in Buffalo, and all those who have been affected by this. It hurts. There's something that's gotta be done. One of the suggestions I have, we have to look out for the community," Raymond Johnson, who is also a peer navigator for Agape's Community Outreach Service Center. "We just have to pay more attention to what's going on in all the neighborhoods. We have to be there to help."
The community event will begin at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday at 2501 California Street in Denver. A free meal will be offered after the event.